I haven’t always been good at budgeting and paying all the bills on time. It has only been about eight years now since I came up with a way for me to pay them all, on time, and be sure that each one was taken care of each month. Before that, Havoc and Chaos lived at our house. We dreaded for the phone to ring, because it might be someone calling, demanding a payment. I was always paying late charges, and re-connect fees. Even when I had a high dollar job, I couldn’t remember to pay bills sometimes. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the money to pay them. Oh, no, it was that I didn’t have a plan. No way to make sure the payments had been made.
After we moved into our first travel trailer, and found our first campground job, I decided that since we were making a lot less money than before, I had better find a way to handle paying the bills. A better way than before. Hell, any way would be better than before. So, I bought a little spiral notebook. I made a page in it for each month, and wrote the name of each bill on it. I made columns for NAME OF BILL, DATE DUE, DATE PD, AMT DUE, AMT PD, NOTES. As soon as each bill was received in the mail, I filled in the date due and the amount due. When I paid the bill, I wrote in the date paid and the amount paid, and any notes, such as check number, and if I talked to someone, their name, etc.
After a couple of years, as I had better access to the internet, I started paying each bill online, either at that company’s website or through the Online Bill Pay option from my bank, which is free to use. I started paperless billing, and going online at the beginning of each month to get the information to fill in the blanks. This system has really worked for me. My little notebook actually lives on the dinette seat right next to where I sit most of the time, so it is handy at all times, as a steady reminder to use it.
After I write in all the date due and amount due information at the beginning of the month, I am ready to start paying bills. As I pay them, I write in the dates I paid them, and the amount paid. When the payments clear the bank, I highlight that payment in the book. I know at a glance what has been paid, how much they were paid, and that the payment has been taken out of my account. In the years that I have been using this method, I have only had two payments that didn’t make it to the intended place on time. When those two people called me, all I had to do was take out my little book, read them the payment confirmation number from the notes I had made, and tell them it had cleared the bank on X date. And that was that.
Having this method is really good for us, as we are seasonal workers. What this means is that for a number of months each year, we don’t work. Which means we don’t have income. Which means we really have to plan for those months. During the season, when we are working, I usually pay more than the amount due on most things. During the off season, I pay the minimum amount due. So, having that AMT DUE is very important. Doing all this has helped me stay on budget through eight winters.
During the winter just past, we made another plan, one where we get all the bills paid off. It is very exciting to me to be able to do this. I have never in my adult life not had bills to pay. Of course there will always be the bills for satellite TV, for telephone service, for auto insurance, those things we pay for on a monthly basis. But credit card debt, medical bills, things like that, have always been a part of life around here. Until now.
Last winter, I got out another notebook, and made a priority list for paying off those bills. I made a list of how much we owed to each place, and what the interest rate is on each one. Then I made a Priority List For Paying Off Bills. (Isn’t that a great name for it!?) Last payday, I paid off two bills. One of them was a credit card we have not used since 1997 and have been paying on ever since!!! This payday, I paid off two more. The plan is coming to be!